by Alex Ray
At 6.30 pm Asia Mart in Amman’s ‘Second Circle’ is doing a steady trade. One of the few noticeably multicultural areas in Jordan’s capital , the area is seeing an expansion of shops and services for migrant workers from South, and East Asia.
Inside the modern American-style supermarket the mostly Filipino clientele are able to buy processed and fresh goods from their homeland. The doors of the market display home-made wanted ads specifically asking for Filipino live-in maids and beauty clinic workers.
Until Asia Mart opened in early 2018, there were only two other small supermarkets – also in Second Circle – stocking a limited range of products for Amman’s Filipino community.
Asia Market owners Qadir and his brother Wisam tell me however that they have been running similar businesses in Jordan for 15 years, but outside of Amman in the smaller cities of Karak, Aqaba, Irbid and the industrial suburb of Sahab.
There are hidden concentrations of foreign workers in these towns, which have specialised industrial and free trade zones. It is not uncommon to drive past these isolated facilities and see the Sri Lankan or Filipino flags flying above them.
There are up to 80,000 legal and illegal Filipino domestic workers alone in Jordan, but restrictions on their conditions mean their presence has not yet significantly impacted Jordan’s homogeneous ethnic landscape. The abuses they face as foreign workers have been extensively documented by journalists and human rights organisations and have at times even disrupted diplomatic relations between Jordan and the Philippines.
One customer at Asia Mart, Jenny, has been living in Amman for nine years. She shops there because it’s the cheaper than the other two supermarkets, “but still three times the price of the Philippines,” she says. There are only two restaurants selling Filipino dishes in Second Circle she says.